By Brian Doogan
Sean Kimberley acknowledges he is "privileged and honoured" to assume responsibility for overseeing Villa's longstanding excellence in youth development, having been confirmed as the new Academy Director.
The 45-year-old lifelong Villa supporter, born in Edgbaston and for the past 20 years involved in the coaching, development and recruitment of young players, will officially take up his role spearheading the Club's youth department from September 1.
It was announced in April that longtime Academy Director Bryan Jones would be retiring at the end of August and that he would play an active role in the appointment of his successor.
An external agency was also involved in the Club's comprehensive recruitment process which attracted the highest standard of candidates for the position.
Ultimately, Kimberley emerged as the compelling candidate having established his credentials as assistant Academy Director at Blackburn Rovers prior to his appointment as Villa's youth development officer in 2007, heading up the Academy's recruitment over the past seven years.
"It's a huge privilege and honour to be entrusted with continuing the Club's proud tradition in finding quality young players to play for Aston Villa," Kimberley said.
"I see our role, collectively, as one in which we work closely alongside and support our first team, trying to nurture and produce the right kind of players who can advance the Club. First and foremost, that's what we're here for.
"Players have to be good enough but youth is always given its opportunity at this club.
"In terms of what Bryan Jones has brought to the Academy, especially since 1998 when the Barclays Premier League's Academy system was established, quite simply no one can follow BJ, so it's a new era and I'm humbled to be given the responsibility of leading the Academy forward into this new era.
"The legacy and core values which are integral to the work which is carried out by our quality staff will remain very much in place and that's important.
"There has never been more focus on youth development - in terms of investment, scrutiny and longer-term development in line with EPPP [Elite Player Performance Plan].
"But our aims and priorities won't change and these are to identify and recruit the best raw potential talent locally, nationally and internationally and developing these young players through high-quality coaching so that they may one day play in our first team.
"Continuity is key and will always be at the core of what we do. I've been able to call on the support of senior club officials and first team staff, along with experienced football developers locally, nationally and internationally and by working together we will carry on achieving our goals and developing players for the Club."
Kimberley was a youth player at Leicester City and Notts County under the then YTS scheme.
He went straight into coaching and became one of the youngest coaches at the time to gain full FA 'A' License.
In 1998 and at a mere 23 years old, he became Assistant Academy Manager at Blackburn Rovers, leading to an invitation from Jones to come to Villa in 2007 to be youth development officer, responsible for the organisation of scheduling, negotiating contracts, recruiting players and identifying players locally, nationally and internationally from the ages of seven to 19.
In November 2012 Villa secured Category One status for the Academy following an independent audit of the Club's youth development programmes, which forms part of the Barclays Premier League EPPP.
In addition to achieving the highest status of the EPPP, the Aston Villa Academy also emerged as the No.1 ranked Academy in the country.
The independent audit probed criteria such as productivity rates, coaching provisions, quality of facilities and education and welfare provisions.
There are many benefits of securing this status but the central funding by the Premier League - greater than ever before in youth development programmes and totalling £300million across the country - is significant.
Also significant is the fact that under the new rules the Club is able to recruit any player aged 14 and upwards from anywhere in the country.